The LII served over 30 million unique visitors last year, but back in 1992 that number was a lot smaller. Paul Manson, now a researcher at Portland State University’s Center for Public Service, is one of a few who has read our publications from the very beginning. When he recently showed his appreciation by making a donation, we were curious to know more about what he does and why he has found the LII useful these 25 years. So we asked him!
Can you share with us a little bit about Portland State’s Center for Public Service, and what your role is there?
The Center for Public Service at Portland State University is a community oriented center that provides technical services and training to federal, tribal, state and local governments. It also has a strong international series of programs. The Center connects practitioners with the academic and research efforts of the Hatfield School of Government here at PSU. I am a researcher with the Center and work with partners in agencies and NGO’s to help through applied research. In my work I try to bridge the science and policy communities to help craft community tools to prepare for an uncertain future. My focus is on disaster and resilience research – though I also support our elections research and leadership development programs. Projects I have led include developing planning tools for coastal communities facing tsunami and earthquake risks.
What would you say influenced your interest in this kind of research?
I grew up in coastal communities in Alaska and the lasting effects of the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake were still visible. This was the largest earthquake the United States has experienced. Sunken forests, images of crumbled downtown buildings, and remnants of damaged homes remain today. I was always intrigued by the science behind these events, but I also enjoyed the policy side of the discussions. How do we interpret science and integrate it into decision making? How do we understand uncertainty or rare events when we face so many pressing needs in society? This brought me to my research at the nexus of science and policy – trying to span to two spheres.
What do you find most challenging about your work? Most rewarding?
Today our efforts to make our communities healthy and prosperous face so many challenges. We live in an era of economic uncertainties, challenges from climate change, and a growing distrust in government. With declining public revenues, increasing public costs, and many vulnerable communities – we face a concerning future. I am optimistic that we can rebuild faith in how communities can come together to become better together. But we face many political, cultural and economic challenges to get there.
Thank you for your recent donation to the LII. Could you tell us why you made that donation?
I should have given sooner considering how long I’ve been a reader! But I was motivated recently by the mix of political news and changes on the Supreme Court. If ever there was a need for independent resources to make sense of the legal and political landscape – it’s now!
When did you first learn about the LII, and in what ways has it been useful to you since then?
As a high school student in Alaska I became interested in the law – maybe I can blame all the television procedural dramas focused on law firms in the 1990’s. But a fellow student suggested I join him at an organization focused on helping students learn about the law and also help provide a valuable service of youth in my community. This organization was Anchorage Youth Court (AYC), and it provides a diversion for juvenile criminal defendants in Anchorage, Alaska. The youth court processes their cases from charging to trial to sentencing. All of the officers of the court are high school students, the juries are also students. AYC provides the training for high school students to be the lawyers and judges in the process. Through that I found LII to learn more about constitutional and criminal case law (and that was early internet years for all of us!) During high school I interned for the Alaska Court System and Alaska Attorney General’s office. I continued to actively rely on LII to be informed.
Ultimately I decided against a career in law directly – but now over 20 (!) years later I still read LII and appreciate the emails. I have since returned to academia in public administration and I still suggest colleagues and students follow LII to stay atop of the news.
Can you recall any specific situations where finding legal information at the LII had an important or interesting impact?
To be honest – the main value for me with LII is first the email bulletin and previews. I am able to peruse the issues and just be a little more aware. My main areas of interest are administrative law and environmental law. But I always scan through and often become curious about some other case that is in a new part of law for me. I’ve even been known to post previews on Facebook as a law nerd…
What legal information would you most like to see published that is currently unavailable or hard to find?
Because of the work and research I do, administrative rule making is my primary area of interest. I subscribe to the Federal Register table of contents email service, but there are many issues to follow and the rulemaking process can be done in fits and starts making monitoring harder. [editor’s note: stay tuned!]
If you were to tell others about the LII and why it’s worth supporting, what would you say?
It is remarkable that LII has been going for so long – other internet startups can’t claim such a long track record! But I recommend it to new students here at Portland State who come into political science or public administration. I think the recent news about the Oyez project coming to LII is exciting and also requires us to continue supporting the Institute. I hope others join me in making sure this part of our legal education and knowledge continues growing into the future!
It was a pleasure getting to know yet another incredible donor that helps contribute to what the LII is today. Not a subscriber? Stay informed with us!